Primary Election Ups & Downs

This is our longest Ups & Downs ever! Here’s who really impressed us on election day, and who didn’t.

Simply winning or losing wasn’t enough to make this list. Nearly 300 people won primaries in PA on Tuesday; and about as many lost. Here are the people that really stood out.

The surprises. These are the candidates that outdid expectations on Tuesday, by their margin or even just their win. Kathleen Kane spent most of the AG primary as an underdog to Patrick Murphy. But her TV ads and Clinton endorsement gave her the momentum at the right time; she won 52.8 to 47.2 percent. Mark Critz faced a steep deficit to Jason Altmire in PA-12, but everything went right for him. His hometown turnout was stellar and unified, Altmire’s was low and somewhat fractured. Critz won 51 to 49 percent. Scott Perry emerged from a crowded, confused 7-way GOP primary to score 53.6 percent of the vote in PA-4. It wasn’t even clear he would win that seat on Monday, having been outspent.

Tom Corbett. His candidate in PA-4, Scott Perry, won handily. His Auditor pick, John Maher, won. His man for Attorney General, Dave Freed, had had his field cleared for months. So, as CW asks this week, did the primary – namely Steve Welch’s 3rd place finish – give Corbett a political black eye? We say no. Corbett endorsed Welch early on as part of a state committee calculation, but didn’t have much skin in the game. The people who hate endorsements will hate them regardless; likewise party insiders will continue to fall in line behind the Guv.

The gays. We thought endorsing against Babette Josephs was the wrong move, but PA’s LGBT rights groups committed and it looks like they will have their prize: PA’s first openly gay legislator. Brian Sims will replace Rep. Josephs next session.
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SDCC. The redistricting delay has given Pa. senate Democrats their widest field of pickup opportunities in a decade, and their campaign committee positioned itself well on Tuesday to benefit. Kim Villella cruised through the primary and will face Elder Vogel; Erie Hospital exec Sean Wiley cleared a four-way field for the Jane Earll seat; Auditor General staffer Rob Teplitz narrowly scored a victory in retiring Jeff Piccola’s district, and they even got a write-in candidate on the ballot against Raja in John Pippy’s seat.

Tim Holden. The congressman committed a series of unforced errors that resulted in the end of his career, but we look at the root of his problems: money. He raised just $480K in 2011, including a mere $100K in Q4. That’s less than impossible-to-beat Rep. GT Thompson, and far less than the $$ potential of the state’s most senior member of Congress. As one Democrat told PoliticsPA, “The only difference between the kind of money Allyson Schwartz brings in and the kind of money Tim Holden brought in, is the willingness to go out and get it.”

Joe Trippi. Holden’s vaunted media consultant deserves some of the credit for Tuesday’s outcome. The Congressman had the unenviable task of introducing himself to 80 percent of his constituent – nearly unprecedented for an incumbent – and his TV ads didn’t help. His first ad was basically a stale remix of his 2010 campaign. And ham handed attempts to go negative backfired badly.

ColdSpark Media. The GOP consulting group, formed by Toomey alums Mike DeVanney and Mark Harris, had a good night Tuesday. Clients Tom Smith, Tim Murphy and Raja won primaries for U.S. Senate, Congress (PA-18) and state senate (SD-37) – not a bad record. Their lone loss came in south central PA, when client Chris Reilly lost the race for Todd Platts’ seat by a wide margin to Long/Nyquist’s Scott Perry.

Bill Clinton. He’s still got it. The former prez went 2 for 2 in PA primaries, backing two candidates who were certainly not sure bets at the time of his endorsement. Kathleen Kane was barely on the radar in the Attorney General race; his backing (highly touted in her ads) made her a serious contender. Mark Critz was on the wrong side of a mathematical equation before he jumped on board (also highlighted in ads), and give the Johnstown congressman the momentum in the race.

Tea Party. Conservatives managed to oust one incumbent Republican on Tuesday, state Rep. Rick Geist (who may have made the Dem ballot by write-in). Even though they came close with Speaker Sam Smith, ultimately that fizzled. So too state senate and house challengers across the state. Sam Rohrer, who more than any other statewide candidate could claim the Tea Party moniker, fell a distant second (winner Tom Smith didn’t mention his status as former Tea Party leader at all in his paid media campaign).

Organized Labor. As high as the stakes were for Jason Altmire and Mark Critz, the onus was on labor to deliver. For years, they’ve dealt with conventional wisdom about labor’s decline. That was reversed on Tuesday, thanks to their successful GOTV efforts on Critz’s behalf. Picking the underdog in a member-vs-member primary was a risky proposition, but it paid off via tons of positive headlines about their effectiveness.

PoliticsPA. We were really proud of our election coverage. Thanks to you, our readers, we beat just about every metric in the history of the site. But what stands out to us most was the one we got wrong. At about 10pm on Tuesday, we tweeted, “WOW!! Report: Majority leader Sam Smith going to lose his GOP primary.” Where do we start? House Speaker* Sam Smith lost his home county* (Jefferson) by 107 votes, but won his primary by 458 votes. Oops.

Tweet of the week: Dave Freed for Attorney General. Link leads here.

April 27th, 2012 | Posted in Features, Front Page Stories, Top Stories | 17 Comments

17 thoughts on “Primary Election Ups & Downs”

  1. John says:

    Cris,

    I never doubted your word.

    John

  2. Joe Sterns says:

    The ultimate loser that’s not mentioned here is CAP. Citizens Alliance’s Leo Knepper, Kennedy and the crew along with myself did an absolutely horrible job. We were involved in nearly 10 races but won only 1. Poor Geist… Wanna job as our PR guy?

  3. vince phillips says:

    Interesting list of ups and downs but I think the victories of Saylor and Miller in York County could be seen as tea Party losses while Bosley’s loss in the GOP primary in Bucks County’s 31st district could be seen as a Tea Party or Pro-Life or anti-GOP endorsement victory (or all three)

  4. No list of losers would be complete if it didn’t include Murphy.

  5. No list of losers would be complete if it didn’t include Welch.

  6. Cris Dush says:

    Thanks John. As a result of your comments I brought it up in conversations since. It seems there were some people who were making calls to Democrats to do just that, and some of them were close to the campaign. So I’m going to have to take responsibility for it as well. I’ve no doubt the information you received that led you to that conclusion was valid enough. We were not however, as a campaign, conducting such a push.

  7. John says:

    @Cris Dush- In District 75 they had a impressive card made up for Democratic voters to write the republican canidate in, which I handed out to Democrats at the polls on Tuesday am.

  8. John says:

    @Cris Dush..I stand corrected as to your waging a write-in campaign. You did an admirable job. John

  9. Don Adams says:

    The Independence Hall Tea Party PAC backed Tom Smith with endorsements, radio spots, and other
    assistance.

    It has also supported Mitt Romney since January 2 and endorsed Dave Argall.

    The PAC won 80% of its contested races.

    The Independence Hall Tea Party is the oldest and
    largest independent grass roots Tea Party in the State.

    Not to mention its success is to completely ignore
    the success of the Tea Party in the 2012 Primary.

  10. Cris Dush says:

    I did not conduct a write in campaign. I did respond to people who remarked on to an op-ed piece by Denny Bonavita in early March that seemed to indicate that Speaker Smith was doing so. The Democrats who asked me about it I simply indicated that if they wanted the Speaker to represent them on the ballot it was up to them, if not they had a choice to make.

  11. David Darby says:

    You are too kind to Corbett. Why did he even bother? Does not engender much loyalty. As for Holden, maybe Trippi will now stay out of the state for good.

  12. John says:

    As a clarification, there was NO tea party endorsement in Jefferson County.

    Neither the tea party(Pennsylvania Freedom Fighters; Reynoldsville, Hazen) (PAC), nor TURN (non-profit)(Punxsutawney) endorsed anyone.

    TURN did host a District 66 Candidate Forum in conjunction with the Brookville and Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce at IUP Fairman Center the Wednesday before the Primary.

    Brown turned in the poorest performance of the evening and Dush picked up support from Brown supporters. Smith may have swayed votes to his corner with his strong answers on health insurance exchanges.

    The back story on this campaign was Brown was the County Chair for the Rohrer campaign hoping to coattail votes from Sam Rohrer. He also identified with the Paul campaign. Paul/Rohrer supporters were the bulk of his votes.

    Cris Dush was an open supporter of Tom Smith and did not identify himself with any Presidential candidate.

    Hats off to Sam Smith for accepting to participate in the candidate forum with these men. I did not see an upside for him going in. Personally, I think he gained some votes in the forum, but it was a true gamble for him.

    We are still waiting to see the results of the write-in campaign on the Democrat side. Dush did wage a write-in campaign among democrats.

  13. HarrisburgUptownDem says:

    No way, Patty Kim won that race. More money, more name ID and alot of big people supporting her like Dan Miller. Roy Christ was never going to win that race and I am surprised it was even that close. She is going to make a good state representative. She should be getting a up arrow for being the first Asian American member of the House. It is hard to believe it has not happened yet. (Plus kudos to Raja for looking like the first Asian American member of the Senate).

  14. Missing One Down Arrow says:

    You are missing one obvious down arrow. You mention the Holden loss and attack Trippi for it, but you don’t mention that Brad Koplinksi’s Penn Blue Strategies managed the race. They also lost the 103rd State House race for Roy Christ who from everything I was told, should have won that race.

  15. ILikeSmith says:

    Yes! CNN-style colored visual county-by-county maps are like crack to us politicos! Please make them!

  16. Alan says:

    We yearn for your colored in maps of pa with the counties colored with Welch, or Smith, or Rohrer, or Christian, or Scaringi.
    D AG race Kane & Murphy would be nice also
    We yearn for visual maps

  17. David Diano says:

    Down: Sestak.
    I think he went 1 for 4 in PA with endorsements. He also endorsed some vet running in Ohio(?) primary, who also lost.

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